Provostian Moments Vol. VII: The Dream Syndicate

21 Apr

What did DAVIE ALLAN & THE ARROWS, THE DWIGHT TWILLEY BAND and THE DREAM SYNDICATE and all have in common? Bassist Dave Provost, that’s who. Who has played in musical aggregations with the likes of AL GREEN, SKY SAXON, and KATHY VALENTINE? Dave Provost has.

Dave is a kind of rock n roll Zelig, somehow popping up at all the crucial turns and twists in LA rock history during the past 4+ decades. Over the years his formidable musical & rhythmic chops got him seats next to some seriously world-class musicians, while his gregarious, outgoing nature had all the rest inviting him to their after-gig parties. And now, he’s now spilling the beans about it all, starting with this post.

This is really, really good news to those of us who appreciate just where this man’s walked and rocked in his lifetime. So please: do take a seat at the feet of Mr Dave Provost for a spell, and follow him in his search for lost rock n roll time.

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The Dream Syndicate - Medicine Show

would love to see the early Dream Syndicate band leaders Steve Wynn and Karl Precoda get back together. Their oil and water polarization was a caustic explosion of tension and release. Karl’s feedback drenched guitar bombast was the ultimate foil for Steve’s world weary voice. Steve played the guitar like someone was holding a Mack 10 to his head. And when you add the man-machine force of Dennis Duck’s drumming into the mix . . . Holy Cow!!!

I was the luckiest guy on my block when I got the gig in that band. Kendra Smith’s shoes were hard to fill – the shouts of “where’s Kendra?” didn’t go unnoticed. But having played in rock bands for fifteen years prior to joining the group made me both journeyman and sturdy foundation for the musical drama. My minimalist rhythm n blues bass parts helped to map out the new direction that the Dream Syndicate were to navigate. We’d played the new songs live, and had everything in place to make the under-budget Medicine Show LP in less than a week, but that wasn’t in the cards.

I do accept some of the responsibility for the flack that we took from the upset Days of Wine and Roses fans, but I wasn’t working alone. I was in love with that album too. The tours that we did to promote Wine and Roses were the best days of my life; opening the U2 War tour was also an incredible experience.

Sometimes the ends do justify the means. Until recently, I had never listened to the Medicine Show album. Steve mailed me a reissue after we reconnected at his Baseball Project show in Portland, and I literally trembled as I played it. I was overtaken by the memory of the six month long recording session, and by the undeniable masterpiece that the Dream Syndicate had created. Steve Wynn’s American Gothic vision had held up superbly, and had taken on even more relevance. “Burn” is still my favorite song of the collection.

Sandy Pearlman, the record’s producer, is a textbook definition of eccentric, but he certainly has made some great records with artists such as the Clash, the Dictators, and the Blue Oyster Cult. And yes, Sandy did ask for “more cowbell” once.

Steve is the only person that’s really qualified to fully chronicle the making of that album, and knowing what I know, it’ll be one hell of a book. The only thing that I request of music historians is that Medicine Show be represented as a San Francisco album. It could not have been recorded anywhere else in the world.

—–

I like to remember the lighter moments, and there was no shortage of them. Karl Precoda was a mere twenty one years old when I first started rooming with him at the Iroquois Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The hotel was our extended stay base-of-operation on the East Coast. We shared the room that James Dean had once lived in. Karl and I became pals right from the start. His maturity, and my lack of it, was a good match.

Precoda had an obsession with fishing. He always maintained that the only thing that he got from touring was the opportunity to fish the rivers and lakes of our great nation. I had spent a good chunk of my childhood fishing with my Southern relatives, and Karl and I would spend many a night out on the water. Just the two of us in the moonlight, with Judas Priest blasting from a boombox. More often than not we would go back to the hotel empty handed. It might have been the bait, or maybe fish don’t like Judas Priest.

I stayed behind when Karl went to visit his friend Bebe. It was a long train ride for him, but she lived on a lake. That’s the kind of guy he is. If I was hanging with one of the world’s most beautiful women, I wouldn’t show up dressed like a lumber jack, carrying a years supply of bait, and beef jerky.

I was hungover from a night on the town when Karl walked in with the biggest fresh water fish I’d ever seen. Our rockstar was proud, and after I retrieved the Polaroid camera from under my bed he posed with his catch. Steve, on the other hand, was not as impressed by Karl’s magnificent fete, and when he came to our room three days later to fetch us for an afternoon photo shoot, the fish had grown very ripe in the kitchen sink. Steve simply opened our 8th floor window, and tossed the big guy out to the street below.

When the band met up in the lobby, a New York City construction worker was complaining to the hotel manager about being struck to the ground. He was wearing a hard hat, an orange vest, and holding a very large fish.

- Dave Provost

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3 Responses to “Provostian Moments Vol. VII: The Dream Syndicate”

  1. harold April 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    i love dave! happy to have happened upon this. he knows it all. hope you will continue to mine away at this walking encyclopedia! :)!

    • mrowster April 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      Thanks Harold – I’ve passed your praise on to Dave. He did however mention something about never buying a Covair in the dark . . . does this mean anything to you? He assures me it will.

      • harold April 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

        thank you! message received! please pass on a happy hi to dave. :)

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